An interesting thing is happening in Internet and Media Land; well, in New Zealand anyway. People seem to be waking up, standing up and saying FUCK NO to exploitation, manipulation and, well, the media actually.
As many of you know, this year I participated in the facade that is reality TV by being a contestant on X Factor NZ. I auditioned as a solo performer. Chris, my beautiful guitarist (whom I’m aware I talk a lot about haha) supported my decision to go on the show, because he knew the reasons I was going on were
a) the sheer experience factor (see what I did there?)
b) the promotional factor – opening myself up to an audience that otherwise might not know who I am, or who Static Era is
c) following on from point B; potentially putting myself in a position that I can reach out to the younger generation as someone who won’t pander to media pressure / molding.
When I was booted off the show (at the aptly named Boot Camp), I had achieved these goals; I had just performed at Vector Arena (yay!), was approached by two six year old girls who thanked me for being a role model of sorts (friggin yay – their mother told me it was awesome to see a female musician empower other young women to be 100% themselves, without resorting to taking my clothes off. Fucking WIN), and I had gained myself some national television coverage – albeit really short stints of coverage – but coverage nonetheless.
But the whole experience was exhausting. For anyone who has ever thought that reality TV is an accurate, or even subaccurate, representation of real life; let me correct you right now. It is so fucking NOT. It’s a freaking film set for crying out loud – with hundreds of free “acting talent” to portray whatever messages they want to potray.
At the very beginning (sign up), I was asked for my story. I spoke about two:
1. My hydrocephelus – having had 10 brain surgeries, and how that has made me want to do and achieve ALL the things, because life is freakin precious, and ridiculously fragile, and we should NEVER take it for granted
2. My weightloss – because losing 23kg and getting healthy is a good thing.
Did they actually pick up on these stories though? No. One of the angles they chose to use instead (which was, thankfully, not shown on television) was to create the illusion that Chris and I were in a relationship. Because apparently men and women can’t have happy and healthy platonic relationships. Who knew? (Sarcasm, of course).
The performance in the first stage was strange. I wasn’t nervous due to my abilities – I know I can sing; I’ve been doing it my entire life – but the nerves came at the thought of being completely judged. On TV. By four people; two of whom I don’t know. And potentially ridiculed by.
The feedback I got from my initial audition (after Stan Walker – bless him) commented he recognized me from my busking years at Hamilton’s Frankton Markets – this was edited out, of course – was that I was too intense. What else was edited out? The standing ovation I received from THE ENTIRE SKY CITY AUDIENCE as well as the kickback the judges received (also from the audience) when they slandered my performance as “too intense”. Basically, they were worried I’m not malleable. And by “they” I mean the producers; not the judges.
But I made it – I got through to Boot Camp. Phew! I would live another day.
Now, with a history of crossfit, Krav Maga and youth work, I think of boot camps as hard work; but the satisfaction of kicking arse and seeing results. This boot camp consisted of… well, reading my book (Dave Grohl’s biography) and kindly refusing offers of McDonald’s lunches whilst unwrapping my paleo snacks. My fellow contestants and I would be holed up for hours with Big Brother cameras strategically placed everywhere; jamming songs, telling jokes, getting annoyed with each other, and one by one getting called out to be interviewed. These interviews would consist of asking us how badly we wanted this; how far we were willing to go to ensure we would win; and dishing the dirt on our fellow contestants.
Not really my kind of questions. I don’t think I played ball very well – apparently I’m far too nice, supportive of the others, and wasn’t overly competitive on screen. Well, that makes sense. Music isn’t about competition to me – it’s about community. Using the arts to bring people TOGETHER.
So I performed by Boot Camp performance (strategically chosen as my band did a rock version of the same song ) and while the audience responded positively, I was given the boot.
Thank Buddha for that. The subsequent scandals and drama that ensued were horrendous. The Joe Irvine vs Willy Moon and Natalia Kills debacle was disgusting – not only Moon and Kills’ comments, but the ensuing bullying that the entire WORLD retaliated with against the pair; just nasty. The targeting of Shae Brider (because apparently second chances shouldn’t be a thing). The scandal with Steve Broad regarding his previous involvements with other shows (because one should always stay down after the first knock)…
I don’t have a TV – haven’t had one for four years – so I haven’t watched the show at all. But more and more people are coming out of the woodwork and stepping up against the machine. The most recent ripple is New Zealand’s legendary Tiki Taane who has made a few points on his Facebook page regarding his involvement – or more accurately, his NON involvement with the show.
And I couldn’t agree with him more. Regardless of the manipulation surrounding reality TV as a whole, the show is simply exploitative. It takes good, honest and talented people, and parades them around for embarrassment re-branded as entertainment.
Oh, what a world in which we live.
I’ll stick to good, honest music thanks – the community may be smaller; but we’re definitely getting louder. 😉